Resource and Environmental Management - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Understanding the vulnerabilities and resilience of food systems: A case-study of three food service operations in the City of Vancouver

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-03-29
Abstract: 

Local governments are increasingly undertaking research to identify vulnerabilities of their food system with the goal of understanding how food security will be impacted during and after a disturbance. This research uses a case study of three food service operations (FSOs) within the City of Vancouver to understand how a short term and a long-term disturbance may impact the FSOs’ ability to provide low-cost meals to the public in need of this service. Food service operations set the menu, purchase, prepare and serve food at a facility or institution such as a community centre cafeteria. The aims of this research are to: (1) characterize vulnerabilities of the FSOs, and (2) identify characteristics of the FSOs that can or do increase resilience to the disturbances. This research develops a framework, the Food Service Operations Vulnerability Assessment Framework, to assess the overall impact a disturbance may have on the FSOs’ ability to provide food. The Framework was developed through a literature scan of food system vulnerability, through resilience research, and by incorporating and building upon similar frameworks used by other local governments. Interviews with the three FSOs staff were conducted and applied to the Framework, using the disturbances of an extreme weather event and an earthquake as hypothetical examples. Results found that the structural stability of buildings, power and water supply are the most vulnerable characteristics, as damage to them is likely to reduce the ability of the FSO to provide food to the public. Possible cumulative impacts, such as simultaneous road network damage and power loss, increase the vulnerability of the FSOs. The flexibility and resourcefulness of the FSOs staff, the multiple food distributors to the FSOs and on-site food storage may increase the resilience of the FSO to disturbances. Overall, this research provides other FSOs with a framework to understand their vulnerabilities and identifies resilience characteristics that could maintain food security during and after a disturbance.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Evelyn Pinkerton
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M. (Planning)

Has Tesla influenced consumer perceptions of electric vehicles? Insights from a survey of Canadian car buyers

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-02-25
Abstract: 

The reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is vital for the mitigation of negative climate change impacts. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) could serve as a key element to reduce GHGs. Therefore, an increased uptake in the adoption of BEVs is vital if we are going to meet our climate goals. In this research, I explore consumer awareness and perceptions of brands that produce BEVs, including incumbent automakers, as well as Tesla, a relatively new BEV-focused automaker. Among the broad literature of consumer research on battery electric vehicles (BEVs), little weight is placed on the role of automaker brand. Drawing from marketing literature, I note that consumers might prefer the automotive brands that they are familiar with, due to brand loyalty. Alternatively, they might prefer Tesla for being more innovative, affording it a pioneer advantage. I study the role of brand using survey data collected from a representative sample of 2,123 Canadian new vehicle-buyers in 2017. Findings reveal that respondents most frequently associate BEVs with Tesla (27% of respondents), Toyota (27%), Chevrolet (26%), and Nissan (13%). More than two-thirds of respondents are familiar with Tesla, and 40% select Tesla as a brand representing the “future of BEVs”. In contrast, when asked which brand they would refer to buy a BEV from, responses are more evenly spread across a variety of brands, with more selecting Honda (31%) and Toyota (30%). Of the Tesla-familiar respondents, most reference that Tesla has influenced them to perceive BEVs in positive ways, such as being more innovative, stylish, and environmentally beneficial. Similarly, respondents associate Tesla with images of being more powerful, attractive, and trendy, relative to BEVs in general. These findings could be associated with intent to purchase a BEV considering that 51% of the Tesla familiar respondents indicated that Tesla was increasing their interest to purchase a BEV. These exploratory findings suggest that Tesla has contributed to shaping consumer perceptions of BEVs.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Jonn Axsen
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

Recovery of keystone predation magnifies community niche space by expanding trophic level diversity and shifting basal resources

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-18
Abstract: 

While predators can drive abrupt and profound changes in food web components, what is less well known and more difficult to quantify is how predators influence entire ecosystem organization and function. Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) recovery on temperate reefs is known to trigger regime shifts, converting urchin-dominated reefs to kelp-dominated reefs, yet the impacts of this keystone species on entire ecosystem dynamics remain less understood. We used stable isotope analysis and a Bayesian modeling approach to study the effects of sea otter recovery on the trophic niche space of a rocky reef species assemblage. Examination of community-wide niche metrics revealed an increase in the overall community niche space with increasing otter occupation time, driven by an increased number of trophic levels and greater uncertainty in basal resource diversity. At the species-level, the trophic positions of several reef associated fish increased with sea otter occupation time, suggesting that these species are feeding on higher trophic level prey. Concurrently, decreased trophic positions and distinct shifts in dietary carbon signatures of sea urchins suggest that sea otter recovery also drove an expansion at the base of the food web. These results contribute to our understanding of the broad, far-reaching role of keystone predation in reshaping entire ecosystems.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Anne Salomon
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

A risk analysis of legacy pollutants: PCBs, PBDEs and new emerging pollutants in Salish sea killer whales

Date created: 
2018-06-11
Abstract: 

Both Resident killer whales and their main food source, Chinook salmon, contain high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Biopsies of killer whale and Chinook salmon samples have not measured these and other hazardous chemicals since 2009 and 2000, respectively. For this study, current samples of Resident killer whales and Chinook salmon were collected and analysed for PCBs, PBDEs, hexabromocyclododecane and other detected flame- retardants. A risk-based assessment was conducted to identify which pollutants were of greatest concern to the health of killer whales. PCBs were found to be the main contaminant of concern, although PBDEs are of growing concern due to a significant increase in concentration in killer whales over time. This study contributes to the second stage of the recovery strategy for Resident killer whales, within the Action Plan implemented by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
Supervisor(s): 
Frank Gobas
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

Managing the Urban Forest in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
1993-12
Abstract: 

Residential growth in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is being driven by population expansion. This is fuelled by a buoyant economy, and immigration from eastern Canada and the Pacific Rim.

The traditional source of agricultural land to accommodate municipal expansion on the outskirts of Vancouver became unavailable following a 1972 moratorium on the development of farmland in British Columbia. The effect of this land freeze was to drive new housing onto the largely forested slopes surrounding the Fraser River floodplain. This factor, coupled in the last two decades, with an increasing demand for urban greenspace and housing areas with forest character has prompted many communities and some developers to adopt forest retention programs within, or contiguous to, housing enclaves.

This study examined the context of urban forestry as it applies to housing development tree retention. It examines the legal and design processes that encourage tree retention using a large development 'in the City of Port Moody as an example. The study found that the desire for tree retention has not been matched with informed sub-division or housing design, construction implementation, or subsequent forest stand management. The result has been damaged structures and declining urban forest assets.

Planned reconciliation of the environmental needs of trees versus the site engineering needs of cost-effective development can improve the implementation success of sustainable treeretention programs. In the long term, neglecting the risk of interface fire, or the need for silvicultural strategies and tree safety programs, will precipitate extensive loss of urban forest resources from natural or manmade causes. This is equally as true of trees on public lands as it is on collectively owned or private and commercial property.

Lower Mainland communities must develop comprehensive urban forest programmes. These should emphasize legal, planning, and informational tools, resource potential assessment methods, professional expertise, and public interest in urban forestry. A simple twelve-part model is developed to provide a context in which viable, adequately funded municipal urban forest programmes can be initiated and sustained.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
JC Day
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

Navigating Coexistence: Ecological Drivers and Social Implications of Predator-induced Regime Shifts in the Northeast Pacific

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-06-05
Abstract: 

Societies are greatly challenged by regime shifts, when ecosystems undergo fundamental changes that are rapid, unexpected, and difficult to reverse. In order to better navigate these transitions, we need information on the drivers, species interactions, and feedbacks that influence ecosystem dynamics, and an understanding of how human communities are adapting to the profound shifts in ecosystem resources. My thesis applies this social-ecological system lens to an iconic regime shift – the recovery of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) in the Northeast Pacific that is triggering a trophic cascade which causes sea urchin and shellfish-dominated rocky reefs to become productive macroalgae-dominated forests. To examine how predation and herbivory interactions affect the structure, function, and resilience of reef communities on the central coast of British Columbia (BC), I conducted four years of subtidal surveys and experiments. These data confirm the critical role of sea otter predation in suppressing urchin populations, but also demonstrate for the first time, that complementary predation by mesopredators (i.e. sunflower sea star Pycnopodia helianthoides) further enhance the resilience of kelp forests by consuming smaller-sized urchins that are otherwise unconsumed by otters. I also experimentally quantified how numerical and behavioural factors collectively influence herbivory rates that maintain alternative reef states. Kelp consumption rates showed a positive but non-linear relationship with urchin biomass, whereas food subsidies and predator-avoidance behaviour reduced urchin grazing rates. Next, to understand how sea otter recovery influences coastal Indigenous communities, I worked in a collaborative Indigenous partnership to host workshops and conduct survey interviews in a comparative case study. We identified 22 social-ecological conditions that can influence Indigenous peoples’ ability to adapt to otters, and revealed how perceptions and adaptive capacity differed between a BC First Nations community and an Alaska Sugpiaq Tribe. These quantitative and qualitative data suggest that coexistence with sea otters could be improved through strengthening Indigenous agency and authority and enabling collaborative adaptive otter management grounded in traditional knowledge and western science. As a whole, this thesis highlights the complexities, surprises, and contextual nuances that characterize sea otter recovery in tightly coupled social-ecological systems, and provides the foundations for a road map to improve future human-otter coexistence.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Anne K. Salomon
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

How to slash GHG emissions in the freight sector? Policy insights from a technology adoption model of Canada

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-01-09
Abstract: 

The movement of goods through freight transportation accounts for approximately 6% of total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions worldwide and 10% of Canada’s emissions, yet the freight sector is rarely targeted by GHG abatement research and policy. To address this gap, I use a technology adoption model (CIMS-Freight) to explore the effectiveness of policies in achieving GHG reductions in land freight (trucking and rail), and to determine scenarios that achieve Canada’s ambitious GHG reduction targets (i.e. 80% by 2050 relative to 2005 levels). To account for uncertainty in model parameters, I incorporate a Monte Carlo Analysis in which I run 1000 iterations of each simulation. My modeling results indicate that current policies (i.e. fuel efficiency standards as well as the federally proposed carbon price and low-carbon fuel standard) will not achieve 2030 and 2050 GHG reduction targets – where freight emissions will continue to rise, albeit at a lower rate than a “no policy” scenario. I also simulate the effectiveness of several individual policies: fuel efficiency standards, a carbon tax, low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate for truck and purchase subsidy. Even at their most stringent levels, no individual policy has a high probability (at least 67% of Monte Carlo iterations) of achieving 2030 or 2050 GHG reduction targets. Finally, I find that several policy combinations can have a high probability of achieving 2050 goals, in particular a stringent ZEV mandate for trucks complemented by a stringent LCFS. While other effective policies and policy combinations are possible, it is clear that Canada’s present and proposed policies are not nearly stringent enough to reach its ambitious emissions reductions targets.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Jonn Axsen
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

Exploring the link between the Conceptual Model of Avalanche Hazard and the North American Public Avalanche Danger Scale

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-01-11
Abstract: 

In 2010, Statham, Haegeli, et al. (2018) introduced the Conceptual Model of Avalanche Hazard (CMAH) to improve transparency and consistency of avalanche bulletin production in North America. However, since the CMAH has no explicit link to the avalanche danger scale, forecasters must rely on their own judgment to assign danger ratings, which can lead to inconsistencies in public avalanche risk communication. My research aims to address this missing link by exploring the relationship between avalanche hazard assessments and danger rating assignments in public avalanche bulletins. Using conditional inference trees, key decision rules and components of the CMAH influencing danger rating assignments are extracted. While the analysis offers insights into the assignment rules, it also highlights substantial variability that cannot be explained by components of the CMAH. The results from this study offer a foundation for critically reviewing existing forecasting practices and developing evidence-based decision aids to increase danger rating consistency.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Pascal Haegeli
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

Sub-regional variation in the structure, composition and ecology of old-growth floodplain forests in the Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-06
Abstract: 

A strong understanding of regional variation in structure and composition of old-growth floodplain forests and ecosystem drivers is critical for improving riparian old-growth management. We reviewed the literature to develop a framework to evaluate these and the relative roles of climate, disturbance, other drivers and their interactions. We then examined forest structure from 17 plots across ~11° of latitude along the northern Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest (PCTR). Mean annual temperature and precipitation were the most influential drivers of stand structure. Several flood proxies correlated with structural attributes suggesting that hydrological disturbance is a key driver of structure, likely driving greater variability among floodplain stands than upland stands. Northern plots showed slower stand development compared to southern plots, differences in structure suggest a need to re-evaluate sub-regional boundaries of the PCTR. Delineating sub-regional boundaries are important for monitoring and predicting how climate change will affect these forests and their disturbance regimes.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Ken Lertzman
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M. (Planning)

Densification of Vancouver's neighbourhoods: Energy use, emissions, and affordability

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-03
Abstract: 

The City of Vancouver in British Columbia has committed to use 100% renewable energy and reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. Like many cities in North America, much of the Vancouver's land area currently consists of single-family detached home neighbourhoods—a type of land use that has been associated with higher than average per capita energy use and emissions. In this study, I used an energy-economy-emissions model, CIMS, to evaluate how densifying these low-density neighbourhoods with medium-density housing forms would influence energy use, emissions, and home energy and personal transportation affordability. While densification was found to have a modest influence on reducing building emissions, zero-emission building regulations were found to be much more effective, highlighting the importance of energy-switching policy for residential building decarbonization. However, an affordability co-benefit of densification was found: smaller, more energy efficient dwellings in dense building forms reduce annual energy costs relative to detached homes, especially when coordinated with policies and actions to limit vehicle ownership.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Mark Jaccard
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M. (Planning)